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Seminar Focuses on U.S.-Saudi Arabia Relations
July 02, 2012
GW’s American and Saudi Arabian Dialogue Center hosted the three-day event on law, religion and business.
George Washington’s American and Saudi Arabian Dialogue (ASAD) Center hosted a three-day seminar last week, discussing law, religion and business and how they affect U.S.-Saudi Arabia relations.
“The whole program is designed to promote dialogue between the cultures, religions and economic systems of the two countries,” said center director Cyrus Homayounpour, an assistant professor in the College of Professional Studies.
And that’s just what speakers and participants did last week.
To begin the event during a day focused on law, participants heard from Jonathan Turley, a GW professor of public interest law. Mr. Turley gave a sobering look at what he says is a destruction of civil liberties through the U.S.’s international policies.
“The problem we are having in the United States could not be more serious,” Mr. Turley said. “We are losing touch with who we are. The civil liberties community in the United States has never been more at odds with our own government.”
Mr. Turley outlined a number of U.S. actions and policies he said are “disastrous for the civil liberties community.”
One is drone attacks abroad, particularly on Pakistan. “Those drone attacks, without the consent of Pakistan, are acts of war,” Mr. Turley said. “They are an example of an act that we would immediately go to war over if they were committed against the United States.”
Just as disastrous are “cyber missiles,” Mr. Turley added. Viruses unleashed against Iran have now made their way into the computers of allies, Mr. Turley said. The vast majority of legal scholars, he said, interpret this to be an act of sabotage and war, too.
Then there are the “hit list” and torture policies. Calling it the “very definition of authoritarian power,” Mr. Turley denounced President Barack Obama for a policy that says he can order the killings of citizen terrorists abroad if he believes they are a threat to the United States. And under President Obama, “enhanced interrogation”—which Mr. Turley said is just a euphemism for torture—has continued.
“So where does that leave us?” Mr. Turley asked in concluding his address. “It leaves us with this question of who we are.” Mr. Turley said he’s not sure who the U.S. is, but believes leaders are creating a more “dangerous” world by ignoring core international policies that have long “stabilized the world.”
Events like last week’s seminar are an important way to start conservations and build relationships in a global society, Provost Steven Lerman said in his keynote address.
“We need to learn and understand each others’ approaches. We need to develop a shared understanding that builds trade, that builds understanding, that builds collaborative efforts and that links our efforts together across countries,” Dr. Lerman said. “One of the reasons I’m excited about this seminar is that this is precisely the sort of meeting that brings people together around a shared common understanding.”
During the seminar’s second and third days, speakers discussed religion and business. Robert Eisen, chair of GW’s Department of Religion and professor of religion and international affairs; Liesl Riddle, associate dean of M.B.A. programs and associate professor international business; and Robert Weiner, professor of international business, were among the speakers on interfaith dialogue and international business and trade.
GW’s ASAD Center works to promote dialogue and understanding between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia with lectures, seminars and academic programs, and to foster relationships between U.S. institutions of higher education and their Saudi counterparts.